Inside Gaming: Hard Rock International Looking to Brazil, Increased Revenue for Pennsylvania Casinos

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  • Hard Rock International has its sights set on Brazil as lawmakers consider allowing casinos.

  • Pennsylvania reports a strong January for gaming revenue; NJ continues to consider non-AC casinos.

This week’s installment of Inside Gaming shares an announcement by Hard Rock International of three projects in Brazil pending favorable legislation there, tells of Pennsylvania’s healthy January gaming revenue, and updates the situation in New Jersey where legislators want to start building casinos outside of Atlantic City.

Hard Rock International Announce Brazil Expansion Plans

This week Hard Rock International announced plans for three new casino projects in Brazil, a new frontier for the hotel and casino brand. The projects that were announced included plans for casinos in Brasilia, Caldas Novas, and Itapema.

As the Casino Journal reports, the proposals coincide both with the upcoming 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and ongoing efforts to legalize casino gambling in the country.

“As the host of the 2014 World Cup and the upcoming 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil has officially entered the world stage, seeing an increased appeal in international travelers, while its natural and cultural attractions continue to be a driving force for domestic travel,” explained Marco Roca, Executive VP of Global Hotel Development for Hard Rock International.

The announcement comes while Brazil continues to consider legislation to allow for the opening of casinos in the country for the first time in 70 years. In December the country’s Special Commission on National Development approved a bill to legalize as many as 35 casinos, including one in each of the country’s 26 states.

The recent downturn of the Brazilian economy has helped encourage the recent push toward legalizing casino gambling. Currently only lotteries and betting on horse racing are allowed in the country, along with poker tournaments (in poker-only venues). In fact, in terms of poker the country is currently experiencing a “boom” of sorts as evidenced by the game’s increasing popularity.

Poker’s regulation is currently controlled by the country’s sports ministry, and in fact culturally speaking is associated more readily with sports than with gambling. Should casinos become legalized in Brazil, poker may well evolve to become more closely linked with other gambling games going forward. Poker pros Andre Akkari and Felipe Ramos spoke about the situation at length during a Q&A last month at the 2016 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure.

The bill is currently still being analyzed and must be passed by the full Senate and lower house, then signed into law by President Dilma Rousseff before any casino construction could commence. Hearings held this week included discussion of the country’s potential to attract significant investment in integrated resort casinos from entities such as Hard Rock International, although the details of what exactly the bill will permit and the shape a new casino culture in Brazil may take is yet to be determined.

Read more about the Hard Rock’s South American plans at the Casino Journal.

Pennsylvania’s Casinos Enjoy Increased Revenue in January

January was a good month for casinos in Pennsylvania. Figures released this week by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board show that gross total gaming revenue was up 3.61% year-over-year.

As described by the latest Monthly Table Game Report from the PGCB, gross table games revenue in the state’s 12 casinos was just over $71 million in January 2016, up from just over $66 million in January 2015. The SugarHouse Casino was up 37.46% in table games revenue from $7.73 million to $10.64 million, while the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem saw a 31.34% increase after earning just over $21 million in table games revenue in January versus just under $16 million a year ago.

The Sands Bethlehem was the biggest earner of table games revenue for all the casinos for the month, followed by the Parx Casino which showed $12.68 million in revenue, up 17.19% year-over-year. Two of the state’s smaller casinos, the Presque Isle Downs and Casino and the Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin, also showed increases in table games revenue, while others showed decreases in the latest report.

Meanwhile slots revenue was up in the state as well, up 2.1% from a year ago to help contribute to $255.9 million in total gaming revenue for the month, up from the almost $247 million last year. The Sands Bethlehem’s total gaming revenue came in at just over $44.4 million, with the Parx Casino close behind with a little more than $43.6 million.

Further details of this week’s Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board report are provided by PRNewsWire.

NJ Legislators Continue Plan for Casinos in Northern Part of State

As we’ve been reporting here at Inside Gaming over the last several months, the success of Pennsylvania casinos is one of the reasons why lawmakers in neighboring New Jersey have been pushing for legislation to allow for the construction of new casinos outside of Atlantic City in the northern part of the state.

To update that story, earlier this month the state Assembly’s judiciary committee voted in favor of approving a resolution to put a question on this November’s ballot asking voters to approve the expansion of casinos outside of Atlantic City. That came after the state’s Senate budget committee had approved the proposal in January, with the full Senate and Assembly now needing to vote in favor of it for it to appear on the ballot. The legislature is now amid a 20-day waiting period before having the proposal heard before the state’s houses.

A report from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement released last month showed the state’s collective gaming revenue had fallen by half since 2006, Four of Atlantic City’s 12 casinos closed during 2014, with the remaining eight collectively showing a 6.5% decline in total gaming revenue in 2015.

While the state’s lawmakers and Governor Chris Christie are in favor of expanding casinos outside of New Jersey — with the new plans also incorporating sharing revenue with Atlantic City — the city’s mayor, Don Guardian, is less enthusiastic, noting that casinos in Pennsylvania and New York, plus the Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, are already taking significant action from his city.

“There are more gambling places than there are gamblers willing to gamble,” said Guardian, as reported by CNS News.

Find out more about the current status of the “North Jersey casino plan” over at NJ.com.

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